NOT ONLY IS Fleetwood Mac no longer blues oriented, it isn’t even really British: The two newest members, Lindsey Buckingham (guitar and vocals) and Stevie Nicks (vocals, acoustic guitar) are American, and all five members are now based in Los Angeles.
The band began its spiritual journey to L.A. a half-dozen albums ago on Future Games when it was led by the often dazzling guitarist/singer Danny Kirwan. Kirwan is long gone but his inspiration lingers in the songs and singing of Christine McVie (who’s also developed into an effective keyboard player) and in the electric guitar playing of Buckingham, who likes to interpose aching, Kirwanesque leads and textured, Byrds-like rhythm lines. Thanks to their efforts, Fleetwood Mac is easily the group’s best and most consistent album since Bare Trees, the last to feature Kirwan.
The four songs written and sung by Christine McVie make it clearer than ever that she’s one of the best female vocalists in pop, and a deft song craftswoman as well. “Say You Love Me,” “Over My Head,” “Sugar Daddy” and “Warm Ways” transform conventional pop-song structures into durably attractive and believably genuine pieces – each sounds like an ideal radio song. McVie’s singing — slightly husky, not beautiful but unaffected — is simply captivating; she does everything right.
But her contributions have been a strong point since she first appeared with the group on Kiln House; what makes this album a marked improvement over the last several are the efforts of Buckingham, who gives Fleetwood Mac a distinguished and fitting guitar and vocal presence, something the band has lacked since Kirwan’s departure. Of the four tracks he dominates, “Monday Morning” has the most initial appeal, but the hard-edged guitar song, “World Turning” (a McVie/Buckingham collaboration) and the gorgeously somber “I’m So Afraid” stand out more and more as the album grows more familiar.
Nicks, on the other hand, has yet to integrate herself into the group style. Compared to McVie’s, her singing seems callow and mannered, especially on “Landslide,” where she sounds lost and out of place — although to be fair, this is more a problem of context than of absolute quality. Her “Rhiannon,” colored by Buckingham’s Kirwan-style guitar, works a little better and “Crystal,” on which Buckingham joins her on lead vocal, suggests that she may yet find a comfortable slot in this band.
Thanks to the rapport that is evident between McVie and Buckingham, Fleetwood Mac adds up to an impressively smooth transitional album.
© Bud Scoppa / Rolling Stone / September 25, 1975